We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


The highly gifted cast of MESS:IES event

Two back-to-back events at Brooklyn's Paper Box, featuring the same cast, revealed to us just how talented and versatile is every member of the Mise-en-Scène Ensemble. Having seen each singer in a variety of roles and different languages in such temporal proximity gave us a new appreciation, quite different from hearing them weeks or months apart. 

Furthermore, being exposed to brief scenes from operas we never enjoyed (like Berg's Wozzeck)--up close and personal--allowed us to experience more dramatic impact than we ever experienced from a distance.

Last night's opener involved tenor Andrew Stenson as the arrogant, callous, and narrow minded Herr Hauptmann getting a very close shave from military barber Wozzeck, portrayed intensely and convincingly by baritone Will Liverman. Berg's difficult atonal music only served to highlight the painful position Wozzeck occupied in his world.

Another riveting scene from Wozzeck involved soprano Jacquelyn Stucker as Marie, putting up with the taunts of mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier as her neighbor Margret.

The famous and famously wonderful Verona Quartet gave a luminous account of the Adagio from Janáček's String Quartet #2.  Although this is nothing like the composer's more accessible music for Vixen Sharp-ears, our ears picked up snippets of folk tunes that were most agreeable.

A particularly powerful scene from Massenet's Werther was enacted by Ms. Rapier as the conflicted Charlotte and tenor Ian Castro as the eponymous Werther. Charlotte gives in to her feelings for Werther and then, filled with shame, rejects him. Charlotte, in her flustered state is discovered by her husband Albert (baritone Theo Hoffman) who then orders pistols to be delivered to Werther. Never on the stage of a major opera house have we felt so involved with Charlotte's ambivalence, Werther's despair, or Albert's jealous rage. For us, these three major singers provided the highlight of the evening.

Accompanied by Mr. Nielsen, soprano Felicia Moore portrayed the grieving Elettra with great depth of feeling in the aria "O Smania" from Mozart's Idomeneo.

That was not the end of the Mozart. We loved the scene from Cosi fan tutte in which the lovers are separated under false pretenses, with Don Alfonso (Erik van Heyningen) laughing up his sleeve at the prank of his own devising. Ms. Stucker sang Fiordiligi, Ms. Rapier sang Dorabella, Mr. Castro sang Ferrando, and Mr. Hoffman sang Gugllielmo. It's a funny scene and Paul Curran's direction added a few additional humorous touches. Mozart's exquisite harmonies in "Soave sia il vento" were well handled and Mr. Reynold's piano added to the enjoyment.

We heard several excerpts from Bernstein's Candide, the seldom heard "Nothing More Than This", poignantly sung by Mr. Stenson, and the ironic "Glitter and Be Gay" delivered with brilliant fioritura by coloratura soprano Brandie Sutton, both accompanied in very different colors by pianist Chris Reynolds.

And the closing number "Make Our Garden Grow" was performed by the entire cast with several singers doubling up on roles; doubling up on the piano were Mr. Reynolds and the excellent Adam Nielsen. Those four hands made a lot of music. Maestro Glen's conducting was astute throughout.

It was a sell out crowd with many new faces, which bodes well for the future of the company. Word has certainly gotten out! We can scarcely wait for the next MESS event.

(c) meche kroop

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